I’ve done it dozens of times – spent 40+ hours planning a menu, writing specifications for said menu, sourcing and shopping, writing the tick-tock of event day, and then finally cooking for twelve hours. For some strange reason, each time I do it I will forget more than a couple of things. One recent weekend the “I Forgot/Didn’t Finish List” included the following:
- I didn’t finish the tick-tock of the days events – a schedule of each activity that needs to be completed in each 15 minute segment for things to happen smoothly. I blame the Happy Hour I happily attended because the lovely Paige was in town from Philly.
- I forgot that even the best plans collapse under reality’s weight the first time something goes to hell.
- I forgot that something always goes to hell inside of the first hour.
- I forgot a couple of random kitchen tools and left one key ingredient on my kitchen floor because I didn’t get to print my final checklist.
- And for the first hour after I picked up the woman who would be assisting me in the kitchen, I most certainly forgot to breathe.
Lexa and I have been friends for a while now but this was the first opportunity that we have had to work together. I wasn’t presenting the calm, everything’s-under-control image that I would have liked. I drove and shifted gears like a man in a hurry, mumbled about traffic, rainy weather, and general frustration, before Lexa dissolved my tension by saying “Refugee, you know I don’t like having to be the positive one!”
That comment was enough for me to get my swing back. The rest of the trip to get the rented glassware involved some clown car like moments with all of the supplies and four racks of wine glasses crammed into a Jeep… and I might have been uncharacteristically directionally challenged too.
After finally arriving at the client’s home, there was another key moment that added copious amounts of levity to the afternoon. After unloading two armfuls of supplies and sundries, I was returning to the Jeep and walked right into the glass screen door just like one of those birds in the Windex commercials. Lexa may have laughed hysterically for a few moments.
We quickly settled into our rhythm and began cooking. About an hour before service, The Pistol arrived to help with final prep and to be the primary server.
The menu was a Standing Degustation with 11 courses:
- Caprése Salad Skewers with 10 year Aged Balsamic Vinegar and Shallot infused Olive Oil
- Guacamole Mousse with Lardons of Black Forest Bacon
- King Salmon Tartar
- Blue Cheese and Jalapeño Beignets
- Mini Asiago Cheese and Mushroom Frittatas with Baby Spinach
- Gazpacho Soup Shots
- Chicken Confit Tacos with Hot Pepper Butter and Arugula
- Truffled French Fry Cones
- Petite Grilled Cheese with 4 Year Cave-Aged Cowgirl Creamery Cheddar, Prosciutto and Hot House Heirloom Tomatoes
- Pork Tenderloin Sliders with Roquefort Butter, and Fried Shallot Rings
- Mint Chocolate Mousse with Frozen Peppermint Patty Crumbles
Except that it was only ten courses because right at that moment in the night when several courses had gone out and with a few more to go, Lexa dropped the whole try of the mini grilled cheese onto the floor and open oven door. This was my turn to repay the calming favor. I moved over to Lexa, gave her a big hug, kissed her on the cheek and said “It’s not a big deal, seriously, not a big deal, we gotta move on.”
That was the only food-hiccup in a night that began with more than a couple of client induced hiccups. None of them mattered, however, because the food was inspired, and great food erases a multitude of sins.
After we had fed all guests into submission and before we started cleaning, I grabbed a couple of beers and Lexa, The Pistol and I went outside for a quick break and that’s when I realized I’d forgotten a couple of other things too:
- Cooking for twelve hours is physically exhausting… like, no other frame of reference exhausting
- Cooking for twelve hours is exhausting but when the food is great, and you know the food is great, the client knows the food is great, and the guests are giving you insane compliments that they cannot possibly mean literally, it’s also kind of exhilarating too.
- No beer I’ve ever had in my life could taste better than the one I have at the end of a night… unless I shared the experience with friends.